The Inland Sea: Book summary and reviews of The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts

The Inland Sea

by Madeleine Watts

The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts X
The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2021
    272 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A young Australian woman unable to find her footing in the world begins to break down when the emergencies she hears working as a 911 operator and the troubles within her own life gradually blur together, forcing her to grapple with how the past has shaped her present.

Drifting after her final year in college, a young writer begins working part-time as an emergency dispatch operator in Sydney. Over the course of an eight-hour shift, she is dropped into hundreds of crises, hearing only pieces of each. Callers report car accidents and violent spouses and homes caught up in flame.

The work becomes monotonous: answer, transfer, repeat. And yet the stress of listening to far-off disasters seeps into her personal life, and she begins walking home with keys in hand, ready to fight off men disappointed by what they find in neighboring bars. During her free time, she gets black-out drunk, hooks up with strangers, and navigates an affair with an ex-lover whose girlfriend is in their circle of friends.

Two centuries earlier, her great-great-great-great-grandfather--the British explorer John Oxley--traversed the wilderness of Australia in search of water. Oxley never found the inland sea, but the myth was taken up by other men, and over the years, search parties walked out into the desert, dying as they tried to find it.

Interweaving a woman's self-destructive unraveling with the gradual worsening of the climate crisis, The Inland Sea is charged with unflinching insight into our age of anxiety. At a time when wildfires have swept an entire continent, this novel asks what refuge and comfort looks like in a constant state of emergency.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[E]loquent...While the narrative moves haphazardly, the prose is consistently rich and loaded with imagery. Watts's bold, unconventional outing makes for a distinctive entry into the climate fiction genre." - Publishers Weekly

"An unnamed protagonist watches Australia burn as her body burns along with it...People around her experience disasters, and she keeps herself outside. She goes through trauma, and she doesn't know she's the one screaming. Magnificently uncomfortable." – Kirkus Reviews

"This is a coming-of-age novel fit for the crippling uncertainty of twenty-first-century young adulthood...The powerful metaphors, relatable negotiation for a satisfying livelihood, and ethereal setting make Watts' debut a can't-miss." – Booklist

"An eyecatcher in both premise and language, which is rough-and-tough, visceral, and absorbing." - Library Journal

"Joins recent efforts like Richard Powers's The Overstory and Jenny Offill's Weather—two novels that have bent the genre norms of realism to ecocritical ends...In carefully lining up climatological events and the banalities of breakups, The Inland Sea suggests that climate crisis may very well be representable within the generic containment of everyday life." – Los Angeles Review of Books

"Painfully beautiful, immersive, yet at its core a novel about a person's love of place, of home, family, and about how this home, mental and physical, has fallen into danger. Gripping." - Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

"Full of heart and disquiet, astute and precise, almost savage in its eloquence, illuminated about what it feels like to love, to be left, to want more." - Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

"A tricky marvel: melancholy and bright, ingenious and gentle, an emergency inside of an idyll. Watts is an exceptional talent." - Rivka Galchen, author of Little Labours

This information about The Inland Sea shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Madeleine Watts

Madeleine Watts grew up in Sydney, Australia and currently lives in New York. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and her fiction has been published in The White Review and The Lifted Brow. Her novella, Afraid of Waking It was awarded the Griffith Review Novella Prize. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Literary Hub. The Inland Sea is her first novel.

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